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'Disappointing to many residents': White City redevelopment heads to court

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A dispute over the redevelopment of the White City tennis venue is heading to court after the failure of negotiations between Woollahra Council and the Jewish community's Hakoah Club.

The club, which owns the venue, is challenging a number of conditions relating to its liquor licence, removing trees, noise levels and trading hours imposed by a planning panel on the redevelopment of the historic sporting complex in Paddington.

Woollahra councillor Harriet Price (second from left) and local residents outside the White City tennis centre.

Woollahra councillor Harriet Price (second from left) and local residents outside the White City tennis centre.Credit:Nick Moir

"Many conditions and issues we have raised are technical and are not directly related to community amenity," a club spokesman said.

But Woollahra councillor Harriet Price said the legal proceedings commenced by the club were "disappointing" to many Paddington residents. "The club says it wants to be a good neighbour but their challenges question whether that will be so," she said.

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A Woollahra Council spokesman said the conditions imposed on the redevelopment by the local planning panel were fair and reasonable, "and acceptable on planning merit".

He also said the conditions would not negatively affect the amenity of the surrounding area.

Formed in 1939 by members of Sydney's Jewish community, the Hakoah Club purchased the White City site with Maccabi Tennis Club in 2010. The $60 million redevelopment includes nine tennis courts, a synthetic football field, a 25-metre outdoor swimming pool and gym and health studios at the former home of the Australian Open.

"The approved design replaces three substantially dilapidated grandstand structures with a new contemporary club building and conserves the historic southern grandstand," the club spokesman said.

The southern grandstand, built in 1923, had been slated for demolition under earlier plans.

"The project uniquely responds to unmet community needs for sports facilities, and broad community feedback supporting a club social venue," he said.

Concerns were raised earlier this year by school parents about traffic and road safety during the construction phase and when the club opens. A spokeswoman for community group The Paddington Society said the proposed designs "looks like a shopping centre".

But the spokesman said the club had worked closely with a local school to "articulate mutually
acceptable approaches to child safety and traffic management".

He said the club had been sensitive to community feedback from residents concerned about traffic, landscape and parking: "Their issues do need to be balanced with the broader constituency of people who intend joining and coming to the new club at White City."

He also said the conditions had created unintended consequences such as imposing a lower limit on noise than what had previously applied when tennis was played at White City and requiring trees in positions where buildings had been approved.

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"We seek consent conditions on operating hours and other matters, consistent with those at other registered clubs and sports facilities in the eastern suburbs," he said.

The club also valued its reputation as a good citizen and neighbour.

Concerns have also been raised about whether the redevelopment will affect the proposed Paddington Greenway pedestrian and cycling path.

The spokesman said the Hakoah Club supported the shared pathway and had offered to assist by providing construction access: "We understand this is more than other private landholders in the area have offered, and therefore reject any suggestion that we oppose the Greenway."

Cr Price said many Paddington residents were disappointed by the legal proceedings commenced by the club, "especially the challenge to those conditions aimed at protecting the amenity of the community and mitigating the impacts of the development".

Cr Price said in her submission to the Land and Environment Court that the community lacked confidence that the club had a "genuine desire" to act as a good neighbour.

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Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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